Tony! Tony! Tony? Will the third time be a charm (again) for the sitcom heavyweight?

By Bruce Fretts
September 15, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

This is why Tony Danza is doing another sitcom: He lost Heat. Danza was gunning for a part opposite Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s upcoming big-screen thriller. ”I wanted to work with Pacino so bad, and De Niro, too,” he confesses. ”I was on the hook for two months, then I fell off the hook. I let myself think I had it, which is the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

So Danza returned to what he has done with a degree of success unsurpassed by anyone in the past two decades: play a sitcom role as a regular joe. Make that a regular Tony. The man who was boxer/cabbie Tony Banta on Taxi from 1978 to 1983 and housekeeper/daddy Tony Micelli on Who’s The Boss? from 1984 to 1992 will play Tony Canetti, a Hoboken, N.J., cop who romances a crime reporter (Full House‘s Lori Loughlin), on ABC’s Hudson Street. ”What am I going to do — play Dennis Canetti?” Danza quips. ”I’ve been Tony twice, so I’ll be Tony three times.”

This Tony-winning role is a little different. He’s not as dumb as Taxi‘s Tony Banta, and Hudson Street‘s not as dumb as Who’s the Boss? ”Some shows are industrially acceptable, but others are not,” Danza philosophizes. On Taxi, ”so many people got notice that they didn’t notice me. And Who’s the Boss? was not a show that critics warmed up to.” Danza hopes Tony Canetti will change all that. ”He’s less the clown. He’s a man, as opposed to Micelli, who was a boy trying to be a man. And the show’s a bit more sophisticated, more adult.” Hudson Street provides a more mature role for Loughlin as well. ”Full House and Who’s The Boss? were good shows that served their purposes, but this show has more depth,” she says.

Not that Danza is abandoning the kid appeal that helped Who’s the Boss? run 199 episodes; he’s again playing a single father. ”I’m still a kid at heart,” says Danza, 44. ”I get along with kids. Sometimes it’s the adults I have problems with.” Danza’s latest problem with adults: He allegedly assaulted a pair of paparazzi who videotaped him with two of his real-life kids, Katie, 8, and Emily Lyn, 2. (At press time, no charges had been filed, and Danza declined to comment on the case.)

Danza’s volatility is never reflected in his sitcom persona, and his coworkers say they have no problems with him. ”He’s one of the most personable human beings I’ve ever been around,” raves James Burrows, who directed him in Taxi and in Hudson Street‘s pilot. ”And he’s one of the few people who can bring that to the screen.” Adds Loughlin: ”Tony is far more talented than people realize. Actually, he’s a brilliant tap dancer!” In fact, he just unveiled a song-and-dance act in Atlantic City.

Danza has become quite the Renaissance man. In addition to executive-producing Hudson Street (this time around, he’s the boss) and singing its theme, he produces ABC’s highly rated Before They Were Stars specials and directed a short film, Mama Mia. But right now he’s focusing on his work in front of the camera. ”I’m chomping at the bit to act on this show,” Danza says. ”And if Michael Mann is doing another picture and needs me with Pacino, I could probably work that in.”